Wilsonville boys claim state title
Wilsonville boys' basketball has added another state championship to its trophy case. The team defeated the Churchill Lancers 67-58 in a back and forth affair on Saturday, March 9. With the win Wilsonville closes out its season 27-2, while the Lancers fall to 23-5.
"It's my senior year, it's the best one. I love all of these guys," senior guard Jack Roche said. "Our coach put us in the best position to win tonight. It's hard to guard those guys, lots of shooters and so many athletes too. But it's indescribable, going out on top. Couldn't have dreamt of a better high school last year, except for one game last year."
Wilsonville was in the driver's seat for most of the game, only ceding the lead once heading into the fourth and final quarter. That's not to say that the Wildcats were ever out of danger. Churchill kept the score close the entire time, always dangerous with inside threats and players able to drop the 3-ball even under heavy duress.
The two teams were fairly evenly matched, and Churchill even had the edge in a few areas of the box score. Both scored 21 field goals, Wilsonville's rebound edge was only by 3 (29-26), the Lancers got more steals (7-3), but Wilsonville had one more block (3-2). All of those were important in telling the story of the game, but the real defining factor in Wilsonville's title win was free throws.
"I wish I knew the difference between our free throw shooting yesterday and today," Jack Roche said. "At walk through today that was something we focused on. Everybody in rotation got on the line and shot at least 20. I don't think we were great from the free throw line tonight, so we'll take it."
Wilsonville attempted 26 free throw shots, and made 21 of them. Churchill, on the other hand, managed to get to the line just 12 times, and converted on nine of them. The free throws were a factor in the second half especially, where Wilsonville made 13 of the baskets. The constant trips to the line helped keep the Churchill momentum to a minimum, and padded the Wildcats lead.
Dakota Reber was the man for Wilsonville on the night. The 6-6 junior recorded 21 points and 9 rebounds, and had 2 of the team's 3 steals on the night. Reber got those 21 points after going 7-of-13 from the field, and a perfect 6-of-6 from the free throw line.
"We just had to get the right mindset going in, and we knew that coming in," Reber said. "We just had to execute."
Fellow junior Keegan Shivers was the next highest scorer for the Wildcats, recording 12 points and 11 total rebounds. Senior Sam Westing came in after fellow senior Zach Rivers left the game with an ankle injury, and did not disappoint. Westing drained a pair of 3-pointers, and ended up with 11 points on the night.
"I expected we were going to come out like a team and get the job done," Shivers said. "What we've been saying is tough and together. Before the games, me and Dakota have been saying that we're going to get every board that we can. Dakota is an animal, he gets the job done."
Another top performance on the night has to go to senior Jack Roche. Though the vocal leader of the team shot just 2-of-9 from the field, Roche set a state tournament record with 13 assists against Churchill. The rest of the team had just three, and it was Roche's ability to find the open man that was one of the key's to Wilsonville pulling away late in the game. Seven of his 13 assists came in the second half of play.
"He can score and is a willing passer, and he got a chance to be good," Wilsonville coach Chris Roche said. "He's also a phenomenal passer. He's the best passer we've ever had, he broke all of our records. Single season, career assists. When we needed him to be unselfish, he was there."
Wilsonville has been ranked inside the top four teams at 5A for the last half decade, and has reached the state championship for five straight years. This was the second time Wilsonville met Churchill in that time, with the first coming in the finals of the 2016-2017 season playoffs. Wilsonville won that encounter also, 51-43.
While everyone on Wilsonville's boys' squad is on cloud nine after the win, the general consensus was something similar to what Shivers said in the immediate aftermath of the win.
"I feel amazing," Shivers said. "There's no words that can describe how I feel right now. Last year we came up short, this year we were going to leave our hearts on the floor. I just want to thank God, my family, my friends, my teammates, everyone for just giving me the opportunity to get in this position with all of my friends. This has been the best season of basketball I've ever played in."
EDITOR'S NOTE: Keep checking the Spokesman website for more stories about the Wildcat's trip through the state tournament.